PARIS – Bastille Day celebrations in Nice were once again replaced Saturday by a solemn ceremony marking the second anniversary of the July 14, 2016 terrorist attack in the French Riviera city that resulted in the deaths of 86 people and injured 458 others.
Tunisian-born Lahouaiej-Bouhlel caused the carnage when he deliberately drove a 19-ton truck into the crowd that had gathered on the seaside Promenade des Anglais to celebrate French independence day. The attack ended with an exchange of fire during which police killed the assailant.
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Families of the victims, Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi, and representatives of different religious communities participated in Saturday’s interfaith memorial service, held at the 19th century Villa Massena. The historic building, which serves as the city’s museum of arts, is located near where the attack took place. A memorial to the victims was placed in the museum’s garden last year.
Since the ceremony took place on Shabbat, Nice’s Jewish community mandated the Diocese Representative for Relations with Judaism, Philippe Asso, to represent it. After citing Psalms in Hebrew, Asso told the families, ‘’For the Jewish community, the Sabbath is the day when God rested of the creation; and so this day is dedicated to praying and the study of the Torah. This is why I speak today in their name.’’
French-born Jew Raymonde Maman, 77, was celebrating Bastille Day on the promenade with her sister Claire Bensimon and her friend Edith Sebban, both of whom were injured. It took police four days to identify Maman.
Igor Chelechko from Russia was also one of the victims in the attack. ’’Igor was only 47 years old was he was killed. Our son was two years old at the time. Igor came by himself to Nice, to volunteer at the Russian Cathedral. He was at the promenade together with some friends and with Father Andre from the church. Our priest went to the parking lot, while Igor and the friends strolled by the sea. Then it happened,’’ Chelechko’s partner told The Jerusalem Post.
‘’My son is now four years old, and he is starting to ask questions. He asks, ‘Where is my dad?’. He asks, ‘Why isn’t my father here?’ I think we will soon need some psychological help to explain to him what exactly happened to his father.’’
Guillaume Denoix de Saint Marc, head of the French Association Assisting Victims of Terrorism Acts, told the Post of the problems confronting the survivors. ‘’Terrorism victims are confronted with problems of health and mental health, with problems related to housing, to employment, problems related to reintegration into society. We offer them our assistance and support either on the personal level or as a group, if there is a specific need common to several. We also have a support group regrouping victims of different terror attacks. Some of the victims from the attack in Nice participated in the meetings of that group. And in victims I mean people injured in attacks and also family members of victims either injured or killed.’’
Saint Marc noted that even now, two years after the attack, his association is still getting calls from people who were traumatized by what they witnessed. ‘’These people thought they were fine, because they were not hurt physically, but after a while they realize that they are suffering and that they need help.’’
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe arrived in Nice Saturday to attend the city’s military parade and public ceremony to the victims of the attack. Last year President Emmanuel Macron attended those two events. Both were held at the city’s central square, called Place Masena. Eightsix pebbles painted red, white and blue were placed in the square during the ceremony, commemorating the victims.
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